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BC’s retirement bridging program helps over 1,000 forestry workers


May 18, 2021
By Ellen Cools

Since 2019, the B.C. government has been running a program called the Bridging to Retirement Program to help forestry workers in the Interior retire early, create jobs for younger workers, and help mills survive through volatile market conditions.

The $4 million program has now reached the maximum number of applications for retirement. The program has helped more than 1,000 workers retire early, providing $46 million in benefits and creating more than 500 jobs for younger workers. In the B.C. Interior, nearly 840 forestry workers have retired, with over $29 million paid out from the program so far.

“I know first-hand, from my years working in a mill, just how difficult economic slumps can be on the people and communities that rely on forest industry jobs,” said Harry Bains, B.C. Minister of Labour, in a press release. “It has been gratifying to see the strong uptake in the Bridging to Retirement Program over the last 18 months.

“This program has been very positive in several ways,” Bains added. “Older workers have the choice to retire earlier than they may have thought feasible. It gives them the option to stay within their own communities if they wish and support their local economies. It has opened opportunities for younger workers who may have been struggling to find good employment, and it has helped forestry companies adjust to current challenges. Without these kinds of support, many workplaces would have been forced to close – and then everyone loses.”

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The program was first instituted in 2019, when the industry was in a steep downturn. But, according to the B.C. government, the strong lumber market conditions in the past year has brought 41 mills that were closed or curtailed in the province back online, bringing nearly 7,500 people back to work.